Colloquy on the Coming Transformation of Travel

The Colloquy project was created to help planning practitioners make decisions regarding highway, transit, intermodal and intercity transportation facilities–decisions that will have impacts on the environment, economy, land form and community cohesiveness lasting for generations. The project’s objective is to integrate the perspectives of experts in various fields and generate a set of expectations and recommendations that describes the inevitable; identifies the avoidable; and puts perspective on the unknowable.

The project centerpiece was a unique event. From June 1 to 3, more than three dozen leading thinkers and researchers in economics, demographics, technology, public policy and the environment gathered in Rensselaerville, New York – not for a series of presentations, but for structured discussions. While there were no MPO staff or state DOT representatives contributing to the Colloquy discussions, the critical objective was to produce recommendations for metropolitan planning. So, the Colloquy products are to be seen as recommendations to practitioners not from practitioners; to an extent, they are a set of outside-looking-in recommendations. The participants were from a number of disciplines and their positions on critical issues both converge and diverge. It is a testimony to their knowledge and good will, and to the skill of the facilitators, that such a broad set of perspectives on an enormous set of issues could be synthesized into concise statements that resonated with the participants.

The Colloquy project was initially organized by the New York State Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (NYSMPOs), a voluntary partnership of thirteen transportation planning agencies covering metropolitan areas with a total population of 17,000,000. The financial commitment of the NYSMPOs was matched by the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Planning. The FHWA arranged for the technical participation of the US DOT’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.

Available Documents
As part of the preparation for the June Colloquy event, the Volpe Center prepared a focused synthesis of leading thought and research on each of five broad areas where long-term trends are expected to have significant consequences for travel demand: demographics, public policy, urban land use, technology, and economics. The white papers are not intended to be exhaustive: other areas of inquiry, other trends, and other perspectives certainly exist. They were developed for participants, as a starting point for discussion. Each paper includes a list of recommended readings. Please click on the title to download the PDF copy of the white paper.

Public Policy
Urban Land Use

The first product of the Colloquy event is a series of statements of generally-held expectations for long-term developments in five areas: demographics, technology, public policy, urban land use, and economics. From one perspective, there are few surprises in the generally-held expectations for the future. Conditions of continued immigration, population growth, technological change and constrained infrastructure are all confirmed. Yet the emphasis on uncertainty and on the breadth and scale of the issues facing metro areas should not be discounted. Affirmation of the need to embrace uncertainty can be seen just in the events since the June event (e.g. Hurricane Katrina). A central element of the expectations is the assessment that transportation is becoming a knowledge-based commodity, and that we should plan for a greater private sector role than in the past.

Most observers of the transportation planning process agree that this is a time of transition for MPOs, and that demands on these organizations are not only changing, but increasing. The second Colloquy product is a series of recommendations for MPOs, based in part on the statements of long-term expectations developed by participants in the June event. These recommendations are offered to MPOs as a potential roadmap to maximize their relevance and meaningful impact, at the same time that they work to make sense of and respond to federal requirements.

The June 2006 final Colloquy product is a 9-page brochure, which summarizes the process, products, findings, recommendations and next steps.

Additional Information
The Volpe Center staff who assisted throughout this project also established a website with the content available here plus additional supporting information. That site has been used to facilitate dialogue about each of the products mentioned above. The Volpe Center site for the Colloquy is publicly accessible at can reach by following this link: Some of the additional features available there include an annotated bibliography, biographies of the Colloquy participants, the Colloquy agenda and more.